At humankind’s current rate of growth, it is estimated that by the year 2050, the planet will be host to three billion more people than it is today, making for a 40% increase over Earth’s current population. Yet at present, over 80% of the planet’s arable land is already in use, which leaves one to wonder how such a large number of people will be fed. No doubt improvements will be made in the efficiency of farming techniques, but only so many calories can be coaxed out of the fertile portions of the Earth each year.

Dr. Dickson Despommier of Columbia University has been leading an effort to address that very problem before it becomes a crisis, and his proposed solution is interesting and well-researched… it involves a series of high rises in urban areas where fruit, vegetables, and livestock can be raised by utilizing greenhouse growing methods and recycled resources year-round, allowing cities of the future to become self-sufficient. This concept is called the Vertical Farm.

From the site:

The Vertical Farm is a concept that seeks to address the major concerns of the environmental degradation of the modern city by composting, recycling waste and farming in a standard tenement building. The “ecological footprint” of the city will be lessened and therefore the city will become a more sustainable setting. The reduction of wastes and the production of foods for consumption will in turn increase the quality of life for all those within the city and its surrounding area. The reduction in transportation of both wastes and of food products and the use of abandoned buildings will directly increase the quality of the urban settling.

The Vertical Farm Project website goes into great detail on how such a structure could feed up to 50,000 people year-round, assuming 2,200 calories per person. Plans are currently underway to establish a prototype of the Vertical Farm in New York City in order to further investigate the feasibility of the project, and to address the negative consequences as they might arise.

The Vertical Farm Project